Hartismere headmaster slams Suffolk County Council’s school transport plan as ‘utterly shameless’ and calls for an apology

APOLOGY: Jim McAtear, executive headteacher at Hartismere School, wants Suffolk County Council to say sorry to its residents.
APOLOGY: Jim McAtear, executive headteacher at Hartismere School, wants Suffolk County Council to say sorry to its residents.
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Hartismere School’s executive headmaster Jim McAtear has described Suffolk County Council’s proposals on free school transport as “utterly shameless”.

A consultation is currently underway, giving the public the choice of three options – - to only offer the services required by law, to allow those with free transport now to keep it but not offer it to new starters, or to do nothing but cut costs elsewhere. It could see 3,700 children lose their free transport in the county.

Your intention to favour those who have and ignore the aspirations of those who have less it utterly shameless

Jim McAtear, executive headmaster, Hartismere School

Mr McAtear said the plans would remove free transport from families of 200 children at the school.

In an open letter to councillor Gordon Jones, cabinet member for children’s Services, education and skills, he called on the proposal to be removed – and for Mr Jones to issue an apology to the people of Suffolk.

But Suffolk County Council says their policies currently go above legal requirements.

And Cllr Jones said they were making a “very clear” and “genuine” pledge to listen to people’s views.

Mr McAtear wrote: “It is clear from your proposal that those families who have the necessary funds and who are not dependent on school buses will be able to choose which school their child attends.

“It is therefore equally clear that those who do not have the necessary funds and who are therefore dependent on free school transport will not be able to make a choice about the school their child attends.

“It seems abundantly clear that your proposal intends to remove free school transport leaving the richest families with choices which are no longer available to poorer families.

“Your intention to favour those who have and ignore the aspirations of those who have less it utterly shameless.

“I call upon you to recognise how entirely wrong these proposals are. Cuts should not be designed in such a way that they hurt the children of the poorest members of our society.

“I therefore expect that you not only remove the proposal but that you apologise to the people of Suffolk for your attempt to make it in the first place.”

Cllr Jones said: “A considerable amount of work has been done to consider very carefully and thoroughly the feedback and issues that have been raised to date. But this is only the beginning and I’m calling for unity. I’m saying ‘let’s use this consultation to look at all the issues, discuss them and find sensible solutions together.’

“This is a very serious and challenging issue to tackle, which we must in order to be able to afford to run the service in the future.”

The consultation period will until February 28. See www.suffolk.gov.uk/schooltrave